Our Lady of Guadalupe Mass
Apoc: 11:19. 12.1-6.10; Judith 13:18-19; Luke 1.26-36
Preached by Msgr Philip Heng, SJ at Cathedral of Good Shepherd, Singapore on 12 December 2019
I would like to begin with reflecting on the story of our Lady of Guadalupe. On December 9, 1531, in Mexico, Our Lady appeared to Juan Diego, a poor humble Aztec Indian who had recently converted to the Catholic faith. She asked him to go to the Bishop and tell him to build a church where she said “I will show and offer all of my love, my compassion, my help and my protection to my people.”
Juan Diego did as she asked, but the Bishop asked for a sign that this message was really from Our Lady. Mary granted his request. On December 12, she showed Juan where the most beautiful Castilian roses were and told him to gather them. It was a miracle that the roses were there and in bloom because there was frost on the ground, and the ground was an infertile place where only cactus and thistles grew.
After he gathered the roses, Mary helped arrange them in Juan Deigo’s tilma, or poncho, and told him to show them to the Bishop. When he brought them to the Bishop, the Bishop was amazed at the roses. However, Bishop was even more amazed at what began to happen to Juan Diego’s tilma. Right before their very eyes, the image of Our Lady began to form on the cloth. The picture of Mary was beautiful and the Bishop fell to his knees. He ordered that the church be built at Our Lady’s request.
The tilma is still intact after 470 years. The colours have not faded and the cloth has not deteriorated. It has been on display in the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe for all this time. The manner in which Our Lady appeared on the tilma was very significant to the Aztec Indians.
God had her dressed in a way that they would understand who she was. She was dressed in royal clothes that showed that she was very important, perhaps a queen. She also had the symbol of the cross at her neck which was the same symbol the Spaniards had on their ships and in the churches they built. She had a sash tied around her waist which meant that she was with child, for this was the way the Aztec women dressed when they were pregnant. And on her beautiful dress were all sorts of designs and flowers. But there was one flower on her dress that was very significant. It had only four petals. To the Aztecs, the four petal flower was the symbol for the true God, the God above all gods. This flower was located on her abdomen, right over the place where Jesus was growing inside of her.
The Aztecs immediately understood that this was the mother of the true God! This appearance of Our Lady of Guadalupe was very important to the history of our continent.
During the apparition, the Aztec Indians and the Spaniards were on the brink of war. The Aztec Indians’ culture and religion were very different from the Spaniards. They worshipped gods, to whom they would offer human sacrifices, often killing 50,000 people a year.
The Spaniards, who were Catholic, were naturally disgusted by this. But they were cruel to the Aztecs too, treating them like animals and sometimes killing them for no reason. If a war had occurred, it would have been very brutal and the Spaniards and Christianity would have been totally wiped out.
Our Lady’s appearance changed everything. It helped the Indians to embrace Christianity and it helped the Spaniards to treat the Indians with respect and as human beings. In the course of seven years, 6,000,000 Indians converted to the Catholic faith. This was the biggest conversion in the history of the Church!
This is why Our Lady of Guadalupe is the Patroness of the Americas. Juan Diego, the humble man to whom she appeared, was canonized in the summer of 2002. Mary’s appearance also put an end to the worship of stone gods and the ritual of human sacrifice.
Our Lady of Guadalupe is also called the Patroness of the Unborn. As we are gathered here today, on this memorial Mass of our Lady of Guadalupe, the first important significance, is that pray that Our Lady would intercede for the needs of our plea for God’s Mercy to bring an end to the human sacrifice of God’s children through abortion.
With regards to abortion, our Catholic Church’s teachings are clear, consistent and committed upholding the sanctity of the life of every human being that exists; whether it is a one second old human being or it is a one hundred years old person. Our Catholic Church very clearly proclaims our commitment to the Truth that human life and existence begins at the time of conception.
In other words, God’s Creation of the human person in His Image and Likeness, out of His Love begins at the moment of conception and thus the beginning of the pregnancy of the mother. Unless this Truth is upheld, the destructive consequences on society and the human race would be disastrous.
St Pope Paul VI, foresaw this on September 11, 1968 and warned the world, “Disregard for the sacred character of life in the womb weakens the very fabric of civilization; it prepares a mentality, and even a public attitude, that can lead to the acceptance of other practices that are against the fundamental rights of the individual. This mentality can, for example, completely undermine concern for those in want, manifesting itself in insensitivity to social needs; it can produce contempt for the elderly, to the point of advocating euthanasia; it can prepare the way for those forms of genetic engineering that go against life, the dangers of which are not yet fully known to the general public.
The Second Vatican Council, Encyclical Gaudium et Spes, IV, 51 says, “Life must be protected with the utmost care from the moment of conception; abortion and infanticide are abominable crimes.”
Pope St John Paul II, in his homily in Washington, DC on October 7, 1979 asserts, “I do not hesitate to proclaim before you and before the world that all human life from the moment of conception and through all subsequent stages is sacred, because human life is created in the image and likeness of God. Nothing surpasses the greatness or dignity of a human person. Human life is not just an idea or an abstraction; human life is the concrete reality of a being that lives, that acts, that grown and develops; human life is the concrete reality of a being that is capable of love, and of service to humanity. . . Human life is precious because it is the gift of God, a God whose love is infinite; and when God gives life, it is forever.”
Pope St John Paul II, September 9, 1985, too stressed, “If you want equal justice for all, and true freedom and lasting peace, then, America, defend life! All the great causes that are yours today will have meaning only to the extent that you guarantee the right to life and protect the human person.”
Then again, in his farewell message in Detroit, Michigan, on September 19, 1987, he asserted, “Every human person no matter how vulnerable or helpless, no matter how young or how old, no matter how healthy, handicapped, or sick, no matter how useful or productive for society is a being of inestimable worth created in the image and likeness of God. This is the dignity of America, the reason she exists, the condition for her survival yes, the ultimate test of her greatness which is: To respect every human person, especially the weakest and defenseless ones, those as yet unborn.”
As strongly as the Church has spoken on abortion, perhaps nobody has described the very heart of the matter as well as St Mother Teresa of Calcutta, who even condemned it during her Nobel Prize acceptance lecture. On September 17, 1988, in Ottawa, Canada, Mother Teresa eloquently reiterated this belief; “Every abortion kills two: the child and the conscience of the mother. The latter will never forget she, herself, has killed her own child. If you don’t want that child, I want it, give it to me!”
As abortion is killing, let us put all that we have been reflecting on into context, by reminding ourselves of what is happening in the world. Let us draw our estimated latest statistics and projections from “Worldometers” which is draws its sources from the most reputable official organizations like: the United Nations Population Division, World Health Organization (WHO), Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), International Monetary Fund (IMF), and World Bank.
Just as a comparison, the estimated death during World War I was around 20 million, and World War II was around 60 million people. However, according to WHO, every year in the world there are an estimated 40-50 million abortions. This corresponds to approximately 125,000 abortions per day.
In the USA, where nearly half of pregnancies are unintended and four in 10 of these are terminated by abortion, there are over 3,000 abortions per day. Twenty-two percent of all pregnancies in the USA (excluding miscarriages) end in abortion. These figures refer to induced abortion of a human pregnancy. What about unrecorded abortions? In Singapore, the Straits Times, on November 14, 2017 published that there were 7,217 abortions in 2016; 40% lower than the past decade where there were 11,933 abortions in 2007. The heading of the report says, “the number of abortions declines as contraception use of single mothers, increases.” Abortions in Singapore are legal for women up to 24 weeks into pregnancy.
My brothers and sisters in Christ, the unborn human being’s right to live is one of the inalienable human rights. God, the Lord of Life, has given man the exalted task of preserving life, and this must be carried out in a way which is worthy of mankind. From the conception, therefore, life must be protected with the greatest care. Abortion is the taking of a child’s life and is a repulsive crime.
Popes in the history of our Catholic Church have condemned abortion clearly and unmistakably. No honest or open-minded person could possibly believe that there is a ‘diversity of opinion’ on the subject of abortion within the Catholic Church.
The position of the Catholic Church on abortion could not be clearer. Only a person who is wilfully blinding himself or herself to the facts could make the ridiculous claim that there is ‘room for a diversity of opinion’ within the Catholic Church on abortion.
The church not only does not want to change its teaching on abortion it absolutely cannot change its teaching, because this critical issue deals with fundamental questions of faith, morals, and ethics.
Let us then pray fervently, for all members of the Family Life Society of our archdiocese, and our universal Catholic Church, and indeed all the people in the world who are supporting and upholding the dignity of all human lives, wherever they are, whoever they are, and whenever they are in the world. That every human person from the very first existence in the womb of mothers, be protected and preserved from harm, let alone being killed and aborted.
Let us pray for a radical conversion of the hearts of the Global forces that promote and support abortion; they who are utterly convincing, and persuasive in their deception, especially to innocent and vulnerable mothers who are going to much pain, suffering and confusion in their lives. That every person will value the precious gift of human life once again.
Finally, let us remember, reaffirm and recommit ourselves to the Truth of the Gospel of Salvation of Jesus; let us uphold the divine dignity of every single human life that exists on this earth as we are each preciously created by God, whose Love is infinite and unconditional. Let us also not forget that Jesus teaches us that while we condemn the sin, we are never to condemn the sinner. As such, the Gospel of Salvation of Jesus is also to be proclaimed to all pro-abortionists, who are misguided about the Truth.
Let us then pray for the Salvation of all peoples, regardless of who they are; that God’s Mercy will bring about the needed stop to all the different forms of evil in the world that destroys life, whether through abortion, euthanasia, ethnic cleansing, scientific testing, terrorism and the like – ALL are evil insofar as they destroy precious human lives that are created in the Image and Likeness of God. That through Our Lady of Guadalupe’s intercession, of God’s Merciful and Compassionate Love, there will be radical and widespread conversion of hearts, and all forms of killing of the human person will cease once and for all, for with God’s Mercy nothing is impossible.
From Pope John Paul II’s homily at the Capitol Mall in Washington, D.C., on October 7, 1979. quoted in “Human Life is the Gift of God.” The Wanderer, October 18, 1979, pages 1 and 9.
Pope St John Paul II, September 9, 1985, Knight’s Hall, Vaduz, Liechtenstein, Germany, stressed,
Pope John Paul II, September 19, 1987, Detroit, Michigan. Quoted by Gary Potter. “Pope’s Farewell Message … “America, Defend Life!”” The Wanderer, October 1, 1987, page 4.
https://www.ewtn.com/catholicism/library/abortion-and-the-catholic-church-9580 ; Abortion and the Catholic Church.
Msgr Philip Heng, S.J.